… NIRSAL poised to provide support mechanisms that plug information gaps, boost entrepreneurial capacities, and improve access to commercial finance
In line with its mandate of providing technical assistance for farmers, the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL Plc) in collaboration with its partners — Successory Nigeria Limited and MTN Nigeria – has launched the NIRSAL Farmers’ Business School (NFBS).
It is a mobile learning platform that is based on Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology.
Mr. Aliyu Abdulhameed, Managing Director/CEO of NIRSAL Plc, said at the launch of the NFBS that the organization under its Technical Assistance pillar, is poised to provide support mechanisms that plug information gaps, boost entrepreneurial capacities, and improve access to commercial finance.
NBFS will provide convenient, bespoke training on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to Nigeria’s Smallholder Farmers (SHFs) who crave for improved access to vital information which is critical to the success of primary production cycles.
Hitherto, rural farmers have limited or no access to vital information on best practice, finance availability, growth management and the needs of the market.
With a deep understanding of both NIRSAL’s objectives and the needs of particularly rural farmers, Successory Nigeria Limited led collaborators in the research and development of the framework of the NFBS, design of the infrastructure, creation of the system map and process flow, and set up of the back-end infrastructure, the output of which has gone through testing and quality assurance.
NIRSAL CEO, however, allayed concerns that the platform may be too sophisticated and expensive for some rural farmers to use, pointing out that pre-design research and situational analyses took such concerns into account, hence, the product is a multi-language, offline on-the-go platform that can be accessed via any mobile phone – smart or not.
In terms of cost, Abdulhameed said at N100 per week, a subscriber could access all the courses and assessments due to them, and at their own pace.
“A N50 fee would apply for access to additional market opportunities, weather forecasts/updates, and special deals, while with N20 only, subscribers could procure step-by-step guidance on specific farm activities such as pest control and fertilizer application,’’ Persecondnews quotes the MD as saying.
Abdulhameed stressed the importance of the platform to NIRSAL Plc, its owners the CBN, the Federal Government, banks, and other investors in agricultural primary production, saying it will promote the inclusion of farmers in the use of ICT and limit physical classroom engagements in line with the new normal.
“The platform also holds great value for NIRSAL’s officials in the field who have been wading through towns, villages and bushes to perform their training and capacity building assignments.’’
Also speaking on the occasion, the Chief Sales Distribution Officer of MTN Nigeria, Mr Adekunle Adebiyi, said MTN is a natural collaborator in initiatives that meaningfully connect, inform and educate Nigerians.
According to him, MTN’s peerless network connectivity in Nigeria will serve as the conduit for a seamless, continuous, and cost-effective interaction between NIRSAL Plc and farmers, which will lead to improved productivity and earnings across board.
Adebiyi declared MTN’s resolution to further support the initiative with free SIM cards for farmers as a way of accelerating the take-off of the platform and the onboarding of millions of farmers.
Situated in all 36 states of the federation and the FCT, NIRSAL’s Project Monitoring, Reporting and Remediation Offices (PMRO) are provided with the product shortcode in advance to ground truth and to understand the approaches for onboarding users on new and existing MTN SIM cards.
A brief demonstration of the platform revealed its paced, multi-language interactivity, as well as ease of navigation.
Mr. Isaiah Bendi, Managing Director/CEO of FBIS Technologies, who conducted the demonstration, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to participate in a project with potential for massive national impact.
The Acting Director of Corporate Communications of the CBN, Mr. Osita Nwanisobi, applauded NIRSAL Plc and its partners for the initiative and urged the media to drive its uptake nationally for the good of all.
As the lead developer of the product, Successory’s job is not done yet as it would oversee the onboarding process of subscribers and address whatever teething challenges that occur.
Beyond that, the company is to ensure that the NIRSAL Farmers’ Business School continues to give value to NIRSAL Plc and the farmers who use the platform to boost their capacities and productivity.
Incidentally, the launch of the NIRSAL Farmers’ Business School (NFBS) follows the ongoing provision of Strategic Business Support Services (SBSS) by NIRSAL Plc nationwide.
Challenged by a general apathy among smallholder farmers towards scholarly mentorship programmes and an insatiable appetite for government grants, the delivery of the SBSS will be enhanced by the ease and convenience offered by the NFBS.